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James Mortimer, a multi-faceted artist, creates sumptuously sensual and renaissance-reminiscent pieces with oil, ink, and sculpture. The young British artist creates a consistently dark yet beguiling theme featuring an emotive, often expressionist, marriage between landscape, beast, and youthful beautiful figures.
Originally from Swindon, Mortimer studied Sculpture at the Bath School of Art, bedding his roots deep in traditional and skillful craft ship. Mortimer states that he emerged from a “fairly dysfunctional upbringing, but was given a lot of freedom and spent a lot of time outdoors”, clearly giving birth to his keen eye for the natural world and fusion between man and beast. The young Mortimer was “naturally drawn to painting, drawing, and sculpting – Whatever I could lay my hands on”.
The traditional yet contemporarily surreal aesthetic of Mortimer’s work is difficult for him to analyze; he understands the process of his inspiration is relevant to what he likes the look of at the time and commits to absorbing the word around by taking a plentiful sum of walks, discussions with others, and book reading. “You let that all distil for a while and eventually it should come out the other end as something interesting.” While it seems Mortimer does not belong to a set style, his true, sensually-laced understanding of the human condition and sumptuous darkness of living appears as a bewitching watermark for all of his creations.
“It’s your hands that are important. I’d paint using mud and my own fingers if there was nothing else.”
Mortimer commits to keeping quite strict working hours – “You have to be disciplined or it all falls apart”, and believes that his craft is less about the tools he uses, but the hands holding them. The artistic journey he takes is deeply personal and not created to provoke a certain reaction, although he does enjoy receiving them. “I do like to get a reaction even if it’s simply “This is nice and I like looking at it” – which is actually a lovely thing.”
Mortimer believes that beauty is at the root of his craft. His deeply visual scenes combine an undeniable beauty, steeped in suggestion and a lustful luster. The balmy, youthful men, expressionist, gothic architecture, moody, rolling scenery, and exaggerated, twisted animals combine and interact to create something profoundly familiar yet enticingly otherworldly, perhaps appealing to the complexity of the human condition within all of us that is both known to us and incomprehensible.
“You want art that seduces people, and there’s nothing more seductive than beauty – If you can draw people in with that first, then you can go on and slap them with something harder to swallow with a lot more effect I find.”
As a commentary upon modern life, Mortimer states: “I’m probably not the most engaged person – I have a laptop but otherwise I’ve been using the same old Nokia I’ve had since 2007. I don’t think I’m a Luddite (I’d buy a robot servant in a heartbeat if they existed) but I’m against distractions and I find admin stressful enough without emails following me out the front door – I suppose the biggest thing today is the worry that we’re going to be living in a Mad Max dystopia in 30 years if we don’t reverse environmental damage and overpopulation etc. – It does beggar belief the nonsense that’s going on politically when there’s literally no other subject that can possibly be more important. That is my one bugbear.” James Mortimer is clearly in tune with the issues that are paired with current society, with a keen intelligence for the disparity between what is important and what is focused upon politically. His care for the earth and kinship with nature is so clearly represented in his art and sculpture, which, once understood, gives his work another dimension.